I know, I know. There’s about a million posts on the Internet about how important journaling is and how it can be beneficial to you.
Well, make it a million and one.
I’ve been journaling ever since I was a little kid. I still remember that my first journal was a purple notebook with an image of Winnie the Pooh on the cover. What the hell I thought was significant enough to journal about as a small child, I have no idea, and I really don’t even want to know.
No, seriously. Don’t look back at your journals from when you were a little kid. You’ll just be embarrassed.
A few years later, as a young reader, I was both absorbed and inspired by a certain character called Amelia, star of Marissa Moss’s book, Amelia’s Notebook. Amelia’s Notebook is quite literally Amelia’s notebook (so it reads as if you’re actually reading her journal), in which Amelia pursues a long journey of documenting the comings and goings of her life, starting when her mother gives her her first journal on her 9th birthday.
Some of you may remember this gem, which turned into a series featuring other titles like Amelia Writes Again and Amelia’s Are-We-There-Yet Longest Ever Car Trip.
I discovered the Amelia’s Notebook series through the childhood classic, American Girl Magazine which, back in my day, looked like this:
FYI, this magazine is still around, but I’m pretty sure the cover girls no longer wear three layers of collars (seriously, why the hell does this girl have so many collars??), one of which belongs to a denim jacket that looks like it walked straight out of a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie.
Amelia was not just an inspiration for me to be dedicated to journaling, but she also inspired me to want to constantly use those classic black and white marble composition books which, in retrospect, are actually pretty common, but at the time seemed like a stunning novelty to me.
As an adult, I’ve moved on from my obsession with black and white marble notebooks, but I still love journaling and do it on a nearly daily basis. I’m certainly not here to say that every person in the world should journal or that it’s right for everyone. I’m not about telling you how to live your life. But journaling does have a lot of benefits and can actually help your life in quite a few ways, especially in ways related to mental health.
Journaling can be anxiety reducing and generally calming overall, as well as having the potential to help with sadness or even depression. Writing down your thoughts and feelings can sometimes help you sort through your emotions and perceptions of events in your life, or just give you a place to get everything out of your head, or off your chest, rather than keeping them bottled up inside.
To the non-believer, it can sound a little farfetched to propose that simply putting pen to paper can actually make you feel any better, but it truly can be a relieving experience. Think about the act of venting to a friend when you’re upset about something. It doesn’t necessarily change anything, but it can definitely improve your mood. Journaling has the potential to work in the same way. Some people write about what they’re sad about, what they’re excited about, or even vent some pent up anger to avoid actually saying any pissed off thoughts out loud.
If you’re a writer, journaling can also help you with your craft. You know what they say—practice makes perfect. So writing daily or even regularly could help you improve the quality of your writing by giving you lots of practice. It can also help get you in the habit of writing on a regular basis and help you brainstorm ideas and sort through them before you begin pursuing a specific project. I can’t even tell you how many times I had an idea that wasn’t exactly fully formed yet, started scribbling about it in my journal, and by the time I was done, I had actually sorted through my thoughts and figured out what the hell I was talking about. Try it…you might just be amazed.
Writing in a journal can also help keep you more organized, help you keep track of memories and important life events, and give you something to look back on.
So, now comes the next step: how do you get started with journaling?
Well, to begin you’re going to need a couple of things. Bear with me now. You’re going to need…a journal…and something to write with.
No, really, that’s it.
Just grab whatever your preferred writing utensil is. Personally, I use pen, because pencil is for people who can’t make a commitment, and I’ve committed to plenty of questionable things in my lifetime. No, but really, write with whatever you want. There’s no wrong answer here. Then, pick up whatever you prefer to use as a journal. My favorite type of journal is, without a doubt, the tried and true Moleskine:
But by no means should you feel like you need to spend $15-$20 on something to write in. A less expensive alternative to a Moleskine might be a notebook from the brand Piccadilly, but you can use anything you like: a Moleskine, another leather bound journal, any journal with a cover design that appeals to you, a spiral bound notebook, a sheaf of loose paper, or one of the aforementioned black and white marble composition notebooks. Seriously, any notebook will do.
Okay, maybe not that one. By all means, do your best not to get a journal that contains the soul of the Dark Lord. But, really, any other journal.
For me, there are few things more satisfying than the good old-fashioned scratch of pen against paper, but if it doesn’t matter to you either way, you could also keep a journal on your computer or your phone. You could keep a running Word document or download a journaling app. One I’ve used in the past is an app for PC called “Bloom Diary”, in which you can create several separate “books” or journals, and create various entries in each. But of course, there are dozens of journaling apps on the market. Just like with the pen to paper method, it’s all about finding what’s right for you.
As far as the actual process of journaling, you can keep your journal in any way that is beneficial to you. Let me be very transparent here: there is no wrong way to journal. None.
You can write traditional dated journal entries, you can make lists, you can use bullet points, you can draw, you can document quotes that are meaningful to you, you can write poems or songs. You can write your entries as if you’re writing letters, either to a specific person or just in general. You can glue or tape in paper mementos or photos that you want to keep, and then write alongside them or add captions. You can even use writing prompts, which are readily available online and can sometimes get the creative juices flowing.
You can even make your journal a combination of forms of media, which is what I do. I alternate between writing stories or portions of projects I’m working on, brainstorming ideas, writing traditional journal entries, and taping in mementos, occasionally with a couple of other things sprinkled in here and there.
Some people like to be detailed (or in my case, downright long-winded) in their journal entries, while others prefer to be cursory and straightforward. My grandfather, for example, kept journals for most of his life where he would simply jot down a bulleted list of what he did that day. Simple—but effective. Figure out what works for you. Try a few things out. You may not find the perfect on your first try, but eventually you’ll find the method you like best.
Depending on what method of journaling you choose to pursue or how in depth you want to get with it, you might want to pick up some other supplies (highlighters, markers, colored pens, stickers, tape), but most of it can be found on a quick trip to Target or Michael’s. (LOL just kidding no one ever takes a quick trip to Target. Let’s be serious).
And no matter what method you choose to keep a journal, there’s just one more thing I want to add: your journal is for you. By no means does it have to be perfect. Especially with the rise in popularity of bullet journaling, I have no doubt you see tons of downright flawless journal layouts and examples on Instagram, YouTube, and other social media (I know you do, boo. I’ve got the Internet, too). But whether or not your journal looks like it stepped straight out of Pinterest or looks like the half-asleep scribblings of a madwoman (hi), if it’s perfect for you, it’s perfect.
So what are you waiting for? Make your Target run, and six days from now when you finally crawl out of there $300 lighter, get started!
What are your thoughts? Do you keep a journal? Have you found it helps you in any way? Let me know in the comments below. You know I’d love to talk. <3